We have been following the Anzac centenary commemorations this weekend, and also some incredibly moving tributes to lost relatives on Facebook, whilst thinking that our poppy from the 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' at the Tower of London could well represent one of those 11,400 Australian and New Zealand Army Corps lives lost at Gallipoli in 1915.
Our poppy, representing one of the 888,246 British or Colonial military fatalities of the First World War, arrived safely in January and it honestly felt as if we had become the curators of something very special, a single life lost. Weathered and aged from its time in the Tower's moat we decided to leave it alone..no taking a toothbrush to it to clean off the mud; it somehow added to the significance and we will treasure it.
I have reconnected with a nursing friend of many years standing recently, she came to the Tinker's funeral. We hadn't really lost touch, both knew where to find the other (though she had moved house so I had to do a bit of detective work) but paths take different directions and sometimes it can take a moment in life to make them re-converge again. I wrote to thank her after the funeral, because I could see her face amongst others in the congregation willing me on as I spoke, and so we met up again this week.
There were a few years to catch up on, and coincidentally she is off to Orkney very soon so I have lent her a pile of books, maps and leaflets and sung the praises of St Magnus Cathedral, Stromness Museum and George Mackay Brown as I handed over Letters From Hamnavoe, but once we'd done that...
'I've just finished the most brilliant book,' she said, 'you must read it...'
And pressed a copy of The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally into my hands.
I had been meaning to read it for so long but didn't have a copy so I accepted gratefully, and also accepted that enthusiasm that someone invests in a much-loved and greatly-enjoyed book ...I think we do it all the time on here.
In 1915, two spirited Australian sisters join the war effort as nurses, escaping the confines of their father's dairy farm and carrying a guilty secret with them. Used to tending the sick as they are, nothing could have prepared them for what they confront, first in the Dardanelles, then on the Western Front. Yet they find courage in the face of extreme danger and become the friends they never were before. And eventually they meet the kind of men worth giving up their precious independence for - if only they all survive.
At once epic in scope and extraordinarily intimate, The Daughters of Mars brings the First World War to vivid life from an unusual perspective. Profoundly moving, it pays tribute to the men and women who voluntarily risked their lives for peace.
Anzac Day yesterday seemed like a good day to start reading and to meet Naomi and Sally Durance, and thus far what an excellent and perfectly timed book it is proving to be.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.